Parker commits to ‘rebuild the trust’ lost with Muslim voters

Credit: Richard Parker. Twitter

Richard Parker

Newly elected Mayor of the West Midlands Richard Parker has vowed to ‘rebuild the trust’ lost with Muslim voters after Labour’s stance on the Israel-Gaza war has dented support for the party.

Labour lost a significant number of Muslim voters in this year’s election with a report from Sky News estimating that areas with a Muslim population above 20% saw Sir Keir Starmer’s party lose 17.9 points from their vote share.

On the war in Gaza, Parker told the BBC: “It’s a very important point and it matters to this region.

“I understand their concerns, I understand how important this issue is to them and I’m committed to working with our council leaders, our councillors, our MPs in the region and with the Labour Party nationally to start to rebuild the trust we’ve lost with the Muslim community.”

Parker beat ‘Brand Andy’ Street by just 1,500 votes in an incredibly close campaign and admitted he’d only written a losing speech to BBC Politics Midlands.

In his victory speech at the ICC in Birmingham on Saturday, Parker said: “This is the most important thing I will ever do. This week, the people voted for the person and the party. They recognised a Labour mayor can make a positive difference. It shows that people are calling for Labour and calling for change. People are asking us to govern.

“I hope the prime minister is watching too, because – in case you haven’t heard, Rishi Sunak – our people are calling for a general election.”

He thanked Andy Street for “building up the combined authority to the powerhouse it is today”.

Street made a brief speech in which he said: “In the end, it was not to be. It has been my honour to serve and lead this place for the last seven years.

“I hope I have done it with dignity and integrity, and I hope I’ve bequeathed to Richard a role which young aspiring leaders will want to aspire to one day. I could have done no more than that.”

Credit: Keir Starmer. Twitter

Sir Keir Starmer appeared in Birmingham to celebrate with Parker and addressed those who had turned away from the Labour Party.

He said: “I say directly to those who may have voted Labour in the past, but felt on this occasion they couldn’t, that across the West Midlands we are a proud and diverse community.

“I have heard you, I have listened, and I am determined to meet your concerns and to gain your respect and trust again in the future.”

Independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob focused a large part of his campaign on the war in Gaza and came away with 20% of the vote share. The lawyer has vowed to stand in Birmingham’s Ladywood constituency, which is currently held by Labour MP Shabana Mahmood and cited his success in the mayoral election to be “the beginning of the end of the Labour Party in the Midlands and Birmingham”.

Yakoob was backed by George Galloway on his campaign trail.

Starmer said Labour’s victory in the West Midlands was a “phenomenal result” that was “beyond our expectations”.

“People across the country have had enough of Conservative chaos and decline and voted for change with Labour. Our fantastic new mayor, Richard Parker, stands ready to deliver a fresh start for the West Midlands.

“My changed Labour party is back in the service of working people and stands ready to govern. Labour will turn the page after 14 years of Tory decline and usher in a decade of national renewal. That change starts today.”

As the voting count was underway on Saturday, a Labour source told the BBC that they believed Richard Parker would be defeated due to the party’s stance on Gaza.

The source had said: “It’s the Middle East, not West Midlands, that will have won (Conservative candidate) Andy Street the mayoralty. Once again Hamas are the real villains.”

The Labour Party said it “strongly condemned this racist quote, which has not come from anyone who is speaking on behalf of the party or who’s values are welcome in the party.”

A Conservative source described it as “vile” and insisted that the contest was “extremely close”.